Election memories: 1988: Bush v. Dukakis
- Bush: 426
- Dukakis: 111
In 1988, I was attending the University of Washington when Michael Dukakis ran against Vice President George H.W. Bush (or, as as people call him now, Bush 1 or "H.W. Bush"). My strongest memory of that election was the "Star-Spangled Caravan" celebrity rally at UW in October to promote voter registration. (But was mostly a rally for Dukakis.)
The 30 or so luminaries arrived by bus and disembarked into a hedge-surrounded courtyard next to Hansee Hall (the oldest dormitory on the UW campus). They filed onto a tiered stage -- and looked out nervously at the crowd of students standing 10 feet away from them.
Here are some of the stars who were there:
- Lloyd Bridges (father of Jeff and Beau Bridges)
- Rob Lowe (Mr. Brat Packer himself)
- Robert Downey, Jr. (the future Iron Man!)
- Alfre Woodard (currently starring in Luke Cage on Netflix)
- Elizabeth Perkins (starred in Big with Tom Hanks and in About Last Night with Rob Lowe)
- Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds)
- Morgan Fairchild (Falcon Crest)
- Justine Batemen (Family Ties)
- LaVar Burton (Geordi from Star Trek: The Next Generation!)
- Rue McClanahan (The Golden Girls)
- John Larroquette (four-time Emmy winner for Night Court)
A few things I remember:
- Rob Lowe speaks out of the side of his mouth. (My friend Brian Thomas pointed this out -- and to this day I notice it when I watch Lowe in movies or on TV.)
- Lloyd Bridges received a chant of "Sea-hunt! Sea-hunt!" because a lot of people still liked this show, even in 1988. Later, when the stars were signing autographs or trying to register voters, a girl asked for Bridges' autograph. He didn't have a pen, and because he needed to leave, he gave her a kiss on the cheek instead. (That was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen someone do.)
- Curtis Armstrong received a chant of "Booger! Booger" and seemed to relish in it. (What else could he do?)
- My brother Erik (who stands at 6 feet 7 inches) got pictures with many of the stars, including a diminutive 5 foot 4 inch Morgan Fairchild. (That Christmas my parents gave Erik a book about Fairchild as a joke. He didn't think it was very funny.)
Why did Dukakis lose? Here are a few reasons:
Dukakis tank photo: Dukakis's photo op in an M1 tank was meant to show he was ready to lead the nation's armed forces. It backfired. Big time. Bush's team used the ad to highlight how Dukakis had (from the ad's script): "opposed virtually every defense system we develop."
Willie Horton: Horton was a convicted felon serving time in Massachusetts. During a furlough release in 1986, Horton committed assault, armed robbery, and rape. As Dukakis was Governor of Massachusetts (and supported the furlough program as part of rehabilitation), Bush and his team turned the Horton incident into an attack ad.
Dukakis's cold debate answer about the death penalty: CNN moderator Bernard Shaw asked Dukakis the following hypothetical question about his wife Kitty: "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"
Dukakis answered: "No, I don't, Bernard, and I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime."
Dukakis's poll numbers plummeted 7 points after that debate and Bush became the